The latest ingenious service project from STAR School near Leupp has earned it $25,000 in technology and a chance to earn another $150,000 in technology as a national prize winner.
The project is a homemade swamp cooler that students plan to build and give to elders in the community who don’t have access to air conditioning.
The school submitted the project to the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow Contest in November and was named the Arizona state winner on Wednesday. The school now moves on to the national stage to compete against 51 other schools. From that field, 10 finalists will be chosen to compete against each other for votes online.
The 10 finalists will present their projects to a panel of judges in April. Three winners will be chosen who will receive $150,000 in technology from Samsung and one winner will get the Community Choice award and another $15,000 in technology.
Mark Sorensen, who co-founded the school with his wife, Kate, said the idea for the project came from the school’s Information Technology guru Rob McCann and his wife, Kylie Morris, who is a science teacher at the school.
Each swamp cooler costs about $50 in parts and can be put together by students in about an afternoon, Sorensen said. The cooler consists of a couple of buckets, an aquarium pump, some tubing, a fan and a swamp cooler fan. The buckets are stacked one on top of the other. The bottom bucket holds water and the aquarium pump. The system pumps water from the bottom bucket into the top bucket where it drips onto the swamp cooler pad. A fan blows air across the pad, cooling the air. The cooler needs so little power to run that a solar panel can run it, he said.
The school is planning to gather supplies to start making the coolers in January, Sorensen said. The students will identify elders in the community who may be in need of the coolers, assemble them and deliver them before the hot summer weather arrives, it is hoped.
Service projects are part of the school’s curriculum and name, Sorensen said. STAR is an acronym for Service to All Relations. Ingenuity is also part of the school’s curriculum. The entire school is off the electrical grid and runs off solar power, wind power and batteries. The students also have their own school garden where they harvest food that is used in the daily meals at the school.